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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

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250                              UFE  OF
the basis of all Ms subsequent studies, and characterized
him through life. The foundation of his profound
Greek studies was laid by Ldffler, the author of a very
free work on the new -platonism of the Fathers of the
Church, who was at that time field-chaplain to a regi-
ment of gensdarmes, and who was subsequently
appointed chief councillor of a consistory, in Gotha.
The brothers spent the period before their departure
for the university, principally in Berlin, and not in.
Tegel, as the capital afforded opportunities for hearing-
private lectures from the most distinguished men,
and for other studies, which might suitably prepare
them for academic life. At this period, when the
studies of the brothers were all in common, and their
peculiar talents had not yet become prominent, Wil-
liam was distinguished by a sentimental ideality of
character, which accompanied him through life, al-
though it was generally in subsequent years, governed
and overshadowed by the mightier qualities of his
fenius. At the period of his youth, sentimentality of
Deling, and an. exalted enthusiasm, were the order of
the day, and Goethe^s Werther, and Schiller's " Don
Carlos/* had only increased that tendency. It cannot,
therefore, be a matter of surprise, that Humboldt was
at this time, excessively sentimental. He literally
revelled in feelings, wished to improve himself and
others, and joined associations, which, for that pur-
pose, entered into self-examining and explaining
correspondence, conducted in a secret cypher, or in
Hebrew characters. The years of his youth were
influenced by this harmless, searching sentimentality,
which united in its sphere the charms of friendship and
tender affection, with those of scientific investigation.
This tendency followed him to the university, and
nearly all his Mends, such as Steiglitz, the Count
Dohna-Schlobitten, even Kunth the tutor, took part
in these sentimental friendships and mutual improve^
ment alliances; the love of association, and of secret
societies, being as prevalent at this period, as senti-